How to Conduct an Employee Counseling Session Correctly

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If an employee's performance has begun to decline, or if there is a specific issue that needs to be addressed, consider holding a counseling session. A counseling session allows you to work one on one with the employee and hopefully come up with a plan for improvement. Counseling also becomes a part of an employee's permanent record, so if disciplinary action or termination is later required, you will have a history of your attempts to reconcile. Plan a counseling session with an eye toward helping the troubled employee and protecting your business or employer.

Choose a private location and time for your counseling session. Select a time when other employees won't be around to interrupt, such as lunch or the end of the business day.

Make a list of what you want to discuss with the employee. Include all topics of concern, along with some ideas for improving performance. Include the employee's strong areas on the list as well. A counseling session works best when if focuses on the employee's entire performance, not just the area of trouble.

Use neutral terms to describe the issue or issues of concern, and allow the employee a chance to respond. Convey that you want to come up with a solution that is best for both parties. A counseling session is used to develop plans that will improve the employee's performance, not to discipline or threaten a troubled employee.

Present the solution or behavior you wish to see in clear language. If you need the employee to show up for work on time every day for the next 30 days, express this. Establish a goal and a time period, and put the goal in writing.

Listen to the employee and maintain a professional demeanor. Employees engaged in a counseling session can become frightened, depressed or hostile, so maintaining a calm demeanor is essential. Let the employee tell his side of the story, if there is one, and listen to any suggestions or requests he believes will help improve the situation.

Thank the employee for meeting with you and working toward a solution.

Write up your notes on the session and include them in the employee's file, along with a notation of the day and time of a follow-up meeting. Send the employee a copy if desired, along with a reminder of the solution you devised and the date of a follow-up meeting to evaluate the success of the proposed solution.


  • While a counseling session is a formal interaction between you and an employee, be yourself and express your concerns using normal language. Get to the point and say what you mean. Do not expect the employee to guess what the problem is.


  • Don't allow interruptions or distractions to intrude on your session. It will be a stressful time for both you, and the employee needs your full attention.


About the Author

Sarah Emerald is the author of books and magazine articles specializing in crafts, family, business and the home, including Create and Decorate, Hilton Head Monthly and Crafts magazine. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from a small private college in the southeastern U.S.

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